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YA Author Tahereh Mafi On Why Style Matters To Her: A BUST Interview

by BUST Magazine

Tahereh Mafi 
YA Author 
Irvine, CA  

Tell me about this outfit. 
The vest is Alix of Bohemia. The sweater is actually an Alexander McQueen dress that I bought on super sale years ago. I hated the skirt, so I cut it off. I know, sacrilege! The silk pants are Nili Lotan and the earrings are Jennifer Fisher. The scarf I’ve wrapped as a turban is from Haute Hijab.

Has style always been an important aspect of your life?
I’m a child of immigrants who came here with nothing. It was always about scrimping, finding a good deal, shopping secondhand. Once in eighth grade, I bought a pair of pants from Old Navy for 50 cents! I learned from a young age to be resourceful with fashion. It only occurred to me later in life that another kid might’ve just been like, I don’t care. But it was always important to me. 

How has your style evolved?
When I was younger, I really loved loud, bright colors, extremely structured fits, and very stiff materials—like heavy starched cottons, canvas, and denim. When I turned 30 something changed. Now I just want to wear silk or satin all the time, softer materials, and gentler colors. 

Do you have a go-to writing outfit?
I just get dressed for the day. Many people who work from home think, Why would I ever change out of my pajamas? But I’ve never really done that. I need the ritual of getting dressed in the morning because I treat clothing like a kind of armor. I feel like I’m suited and ready to perform my obligations for the day. 

It really helps change my mental state. I could throw on heels and be dressed for fine dining. I could put on flats for a supermarket run. But I’m also comfortable enough that I could give my daughter a bath. I need to be able to do everything in that outfit.

Beyond its religious significance, do you consider wearing hijab an element of your style?
The choices I make as a visibly Muslim woman are never seen with nuance. It’s like a sledgehammer of stereotypes and misinformation. I can’t tell you how many women have said to me, “If you wear hijab you couldn’t possibly be a feminist.” As a result, this piece of cloth that I wrap around my head has become an integral part of my personal style without even meaning to. 

Where do you find inspiration?
I love the tailored silhouettes of 1950s fashion, elegant old Dior, and Balenciaga. But then I love things like harnesses and strange belts—vinyl, plastic, PVC. I like using things in unconventional, almost anachronistic ways. Maybe that comes from me feeling a bit out of place always. 

What’s an anachronistic piece you might put with an outfit?
I think my scarf feels like an anachronistic piece, because people associate it with a different time. Hijab is conflated with the idea of a demure, modest woman who doesn’t want to be seen. This is fundamentally incorrect. We are not hiding; we are choosing how we want to be seen. I’ll wear a custom-made harness by Creepyyeha and I don’t care that it seems out of time with my hijab. I love the juxtaposition.

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Get glam with Tahereh’s prime picks

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Cuyana Classic Leather Tote, $175 (plus $15 for monogram), cuyana.com 
“I’ve always loved personalized items because, growing up, I never saw my name in the world—unless I put it there myself. Cuyana does really elegant bags you can monogram.”

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ASOS Design Vinyl Midi Pencil Skirt, $17.60, asos.com

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Clyde Leather Hat, $144, net-a-porter.com 
“Right now I really love wearing silk and satin—styled up or down. I love it especially when I go to sleep.” 

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Lunya Washable Silk Tee Set, $198, lunya.com 
“I love Yeha Leung’s work,  I think it’s incredible.” 

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Yeha Waist Cincher in Lavender + Silver, $150, creepyyeha.storenvy.com

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Alix of Bohemia Pomegranate Cotton Jacket, $1,180, modaoperandi.com

“Imagine Me,” the final book in Tahereh Mafi’s New York Times Bestselling “Shatter Me” series, is out now. Find out more at taherehmafi.com.

By Lisa Butterworth 
Photographed by Ransom Riggs 

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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